(Senate - June 20, 2018)

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[Pages S4261-S4275]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


                        Forced Family Separation

  Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I rise to speak about the 
humanitarian crisis that is at our southern border right now. We are 
living through a moment in history when we are literally sending babies 
and toddlers into detention camps.

[[Page S4262]]

  Think about that. Think about what I just said. Our Federal 
Government is sending babies and toddlers to detention camps. This is 
immoral. It is wrong.
  The AP broke a story last night that left me speechless, and I want 
the details of this horror recorded and documented in the official 
Senate Record so Americans years from now will look back on us and will 
see how wrong we were.
  I will read this article from the Associated Press, called ``Youngest 
Migrants Held in `Tender Age' Shelters.'' It is by Garance Burke and 
Martha Mendoza.

       Trump administration officials have been sending babies and 
     other young children forcibly separated from their parents at 
     the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three ``tender age'' 
     shelters in South Texas, the Associated Press has learned.
       Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio 
     Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying 
     preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans 
     to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant 
     children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move 
       Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy 
     in early May, more than 23,000 children have been taken from 
     their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new 
     influx of young children requiring government care. The 
     government has faced withering critiques over images of some 
     of the children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing 
       Decades after the nation's child welfare system ended the 
     use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to 
     children, the administration is starting up new institutions 
     to hold Central American toddlers that the government 
     separated from their parents.
       ``The thought that they are going to be putting such little 
     kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me 
     even to wrap my mind around it,'' said Kay Bellor, vice 
     president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee 
     Service, which provides foster care and other child welfare 
     services to migrant children. ``Toddlers are being 
       Bellor said shelters follow strict procedures surrounding 
     who can gain access to the children in order to protect their 
     safety, but that means information about their welfare can be 
       By law, child migrants traveling alone must be sent to 
     facilities run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human 
     Services within three days of being detained. The agency then 
     is responsible for placing the children in shelters or foster 
     homes until they are united with a relative or sponsor in the 
     community as they await immigration court hearings.
       But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement last 
     month that the government would criminally prosecute everyone 
     who crosses the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has led to the 
     breakup of migrant families and sent a new group of hundreds 
     of young children into the government's care.
       The United Nations, some Democratic and Republican 
     lawmakers and religious groups have sharply criticized the 
     policy, calling it inhumane.
       Not so, said Steven Wagner, an official with the Department 
     of Health and Human Services.
       ``We have specialized facilities that are devoted to 
     providing care to children with special needs and tender age 
     children as we define as under 13 would fall into that 
     category,'' he said. ``They're not government facilities per 
     se, and they have very well-trained clinicians, and those 
     facilities meet state licensing standards for child welfare 
     agencies, and they're staffed by people who know how to deal 
     with the needs--particularly of the younger children.''
       Until now, however, it's been unknown where they are.
       ``In general we do not identify the locations of permanent 
     unaccompanied alien children program facilities,'' said 
     agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe.
       The three centers--in Combes, Raymondville, and 
     Brownsville--have been rapidly repurposed to serve needs of 
     children including some under 5. A fourth, planned for 
     Houston, would house up to 240 children in a warehouse 
     previously used for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey, 
     Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
       Turner said he met with officials from Austin-based 
     Southwest Key Programs, the contractor that operates some of 
     the child shelters, to ask them to reconsider their plans. A 
     spokeswoman for Southwest Key didn't immediately reply to an 
     email seeking comment.
       ``And so there comes a point in time we draw a line, and 
     for me, the line is with these children,'' Turner said during 
     a news conference Tuesday.
       On a practical level, the zero tolerance policy has 
     overwhelmed the federal agency charged with caring for the 
     new influx of children who tend to be much younger than teens 
     who typically have been traveling to the U.S. alone. Indeed 
     some recent detainees are infants, taken from their mothers.
       Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelter said the 
     facilities were fine, clean and safe, but the kids--who have 
     no idea where their parents are--were hysterical, crying, and 
     acting out.
       ``The shelters aren't the problem, it's taking kids from 
     their parents that's the problem,'' said South Texas 
     pediatrician Marsha Griffin who has visited many.
       Alicia Lieberman, who runs the Early Trauma Treatment 
     Network at the University of California, San Francisco, said 
     decades of study show early separations can cause permanent 
     emotional damage.
       ``Children are biologically programmed to grow best in the 
     care of a parent figure. When that bond is broken through 
     long and unexpected separations with no set timeline for 
     reunion, children respond at the deepest psychological and 
     emotional levels,'' she said. ``Their fear triggers a flood 
     of stress hormones that disrupt neural circuits in the brain, 
     create high levels of anxiety, make them more susceptible to 
     physical and emotional illness, and damage their capacity to 
     manage their emotions, trust people, and focus their 
     attention on age-appropriate activities.''
       Days after Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy, 
     the government issued a call for proposals from shelter and 
     foster care providers to provide services for the new influx 
     of children taken from their families after journeying from 
     Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
       As children are separated from their families, law 
     enforcement agents reclassify them from members of family 
     units to ``unaccompanied alien children.'' Federal officials 
     said Tuesday that since May, they have separated 2,342 
     children from their families, rendering them unaccompanied 
     minors in the government's care.
       While Mexico is still the most common country of origin for 
     families arrested at the border, in the last eight months, 
     Honduras has become the fastest-growing category as compared 
     to fiscal year 2017.
       During a press briefing [on] Tuesday, reporters repeatedly 
     asked for an age breakdown of the children who have been 
     taken. Officials from both law enforcement and Health and 
     Human Services said they didn't know how many children were 
     under 5, under 2, or even so little they're non-verbal.
       ``The facilities that they have for the most part are not 
     licensed for tender age children,'' said Michelle Brane, 
     director of migrant rights at the Women's Refugee Commission, 
     who met with a 4-year-old girl in diapers in a McAllen 
     warehouse where Border Patrol temporarily holds migrant 
     families. ``There is no model for how you house tons of 
     little children in cots institutionally in our country. We 
     don't do orphanages, our child welfare has recognized that is 
     an inappropriate setting for little children.''
       So now, the government has to try to hire more caregivers. 
     The recent call for proposals by the federal government's 
     Office of Refugee Resettlement said it was seeking applicants 
     who can provide services for a diverse population ``of all 
     ages and genders, as well as pregnant and parenting teens.''
       Even the policy surrounding what age to take away a baby is 
     inconsistent. Customs and Border Protection field chiefs over 
     all nine southwest border districts can use their discretion 
     over how young is too young, officials said. And while Health 
     and Human Services defines ``tender age'' typically as 12 and 
     under, Customs and Border Protection has at times defined it 
     as 5 and under.
       For 30 years, Los Fresnos, Texas-based International 
     Education Services ran emergency shelters and foster care 
     programs for younger children and pregnant teens who arrived 
     in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. At least one resident 
     sued for the right to have an abortion in a high-profile case 
     last March.
       For reasons the agency did not explain, three months ago 
     the government's refugee resettlement office said it was 
     ending its funding to the program and transferring all 
     children to other facilities. This came weeks before the 
     administration began its ``zero tolerance'' policy, prompting 
     a surge in ``tender age'' migrant children needing shelter.
       In recent days, members of Congress have been visiting the 
     shelters and processing centers, or watching news reports 
     about them, bearing witness to the growing chaos. In a letter 
     sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, a dozen 
     Republican senators wrote that separating families isn't 
     consistent with American values and ordinary human decency.
       On Tuesday, a Guatemalan mother who hasn't seen her 7-year-
     old son since he was taken from her a month ago sued the 
     Trump administration. Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia was 
     released from custody while her asylum case is pending and 
     thinks her son, Darwin, might be in a shelter in Arizona.
       ``I only got to talk to him once and he sounded so sad. My 
     son never used to sound like that, he was such a dynamic 
     boy,'' Mejia-Mejia said as she wept. ``I call and call, and 
     no one will tell me where he is.''

  The Presiding Officer has young children. I have young children. I am 
certain he cannot imagine how horrific it would be for him to give up 
his child

[[Page S4263]]

into the hands of those he does not know and then not know where they 
will take him or her. I am certain he can't imagine that pain and 
horror. This body should not allow it. We should stand against it. It 
is morally wrong. It is outrageous, and it must end.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.

                               Tax Reform

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, 6 months ago, Congress passed historic 
tax legislation that fundamentally reformed our Tax Code and provided 
tax relief to middle-income Americans and also to small business job 
  At the time, many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle 
attempted to derail our efforts through a campaign of misinformation 
and demagoguery. They tried to argue that up was down and that tax cuts 
were tax increases. They even suggested the bill's passage was a sign 
of Armageddon.
  Of course, such fearmongering was always nonsense. At the time, 
analysis from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation had made it 
clear that the vast majority of taxpayers across every income group 
would experience tax cuts. In fact, it made clear that middle-income 
groups would experience the largest percentage of tax cuts. In even 
looking at the liberal Tax Policy Center's analysis of the bill, the 
tax relief for the middle class is unmistakable. Its analysis found 
that more than 80 percent would experience tax cuts that would average 
more than $2,100.
  In the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we made good on our commitment to fix 
our broken Tax Code. It makes filing simpler, provides middle-income 
tax cuts, and reinvigorates our economy through pro-growth business tax 
  The positive effects of the tax cuts began almost immediately with 
companies announcing bonuses, pay raises, higher retirement 
contributions, new hiring, and increased investment as a result of the 
law. To date, the list of such companies has climbed to over 600, with 
there being more than 4 million employees who are benefiting.
  This has included a number of businesses in my State of Iowa, which 
range from the small, like the Anfinson Farm Store, which has invested 
back into its employees in the form of $1,000 bonuses and a 5-percent 
increase in wages, to the very large, like Wells Fargo, which has 
raised its base wage from $13.50 to $15 per hour and benefited more 
than 1,300 employees.
  Higher wages and bonuses are not the only ways that taxpayers are 
benefiting from the historic tax relief.
  Taxpayers across the country are seeing the benefit in the form of 
lower electric, gas, and water bills. Nationally, utility customers 
have experienced more than $3 billion in savings thanks to lower 
utility rates as a result of tax cuts.
  In my State of Iowa, Alliant Energy has estimated its customer 
savings to be between $18.6 million and $19.6 million for electric and 
from $500,000 to $3.7 million for gas. MidAmerican Energy has estimated 
between $90 million and $112 million in customer savings, and Iowa 
American Water Company has estimated customer savings to be between 
$1.5 million and $1.8 million.
  The hundreds of businesses and utility company announcements were 
only the beginning of the positive news for American taxpayers. In 
February, taxpayers began seeing the effects of tax reform directly in 
their paychecks as less was taken out of their pay by the IRS. In all, 
about 90 percent of taxpayers are seeing less being withheld from their 
paychecks as a result of the law.
  As it became evident that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was delivering 
meaningful benefits to working families, our Democratic colleagues were 
in search of new talking points on the law, considering the fact that 
their old talking points were not working. They could no longer, with a 
straight face, argue that tax cuts were really tax increases. Instead, 
they wanted hard-working Americans to believe that an extra $50 a week 
in their paychecks or a $1,000 bonus was ``crumbs.''
  With all due respect to my colleagues who believe that this is true, 
they don't have a doggone clue what it is like in the real world where 
people have to work for a living. That $1,000 bonus means a lot for a 
father or a mother whose children need new school clothes or who has a 
car that could use some repairs or who, simply, wants to take the 
family on a vacation. For a family on a tight budget, every additional 
dollar in a paycheck really counts. It means an additional dollar that 
can be put away for unexpected emergencies or for a child's college 
savings or, maybe, even for one's own retirement.
  As important as the immediate middle-income tax benefits are that 
have been afforded by the law, the benefits that will accrue for 
everybody in this country as a result of the long-term, pro-growth 
effects of the bill are as important, if maybe not more important. 
Thanks to this historic tax measure, as well as to regulatory relief, 
Congress and the administration have declared that America is open for 
business. When Congress delivers historic tax cuts and, particularly, 
regulatory rollbacks, the American people enjoy the sweet taste of 
prosperity. That is how the cookie crumbles.
  Despite critics in this town calling the tax cuts crumbs, I would 
invite them to chew on a few facts: National unemployment has fallen to 
3.8 percent--the lowest level since April 2000. Wages have risen at the 
fastest pace since the end of the recession. For the first time on 
record, the number of job openings has exceeded the number of job 
seekers. U.S. manufacturers report historically high investment and 
hiring numbers as 86 percent report they intend to increase investment, 
and 77 percent report they plan to increase hiring. Small business 
confidence has hit record highs. Consumer confidence has reached its 
highest level in 18 years. All of this good economic news points toward 
higher economic growth moving forward. This is key to sustainable long-
term wage growth, which is the most powerful anti-poverty measure there 
is. This should be welcome news to all after the years of stagnant wage 
growth during the Obama years.

  With all of this positive news, Democrats have been searching for a 
talking point that they hope will take hold. They are looking for a big 
distraction from the prosperity that results from this tax bill. Toward 
that end, they have lambasted corporate stock buybacks. Their hope is 
that the American public will disregard all the positive signs they 
have seen in their paychecks and in the economy generally and be 
outraged by the benefits accruing to stockholders--more class warfare 
on their part versus the compassion and social justice that this tax 
reform brings about. It is a play out of their old playbook, in other 
words. When all else fails, engage in the historic rhetoric of class 
warfare. But I have news for some of my Democratic colleagues: That dog 
no longer hunts either. Millions of middle-class Americans own stock--
if not directly, through their 401(k) or pension plan. According to the 
Tax Policy Center, 37 percent of stock is held in retirement accounts. 
Thus, the idea of stock buybacks being a boon only to corporate fat 
cats is hogwash. It is a boon to the millions of middle-class Americans 
who are longing for secure and comfortable retirements.
  Moreover, the Democrats' concerns with stock buybacks demonstrate a 
fundamental misunderstanding of economics. Stock buybacks are fully 
consistent with one of the main objectives of tax reform; that is, 
promoting economic growth through capital formation that makes workers 
more productive, which in turn leads to increased wages. When a company 
repurchases stock, that money is not stuffed into a mattress; it frees 
up dollars that can be reinvested in a growing economy or maybe a new 
startup small business. This in turn promotes the type of business 
expansion and capital investment necessary to grow our economy, boost 
productivity, and increase wages over the long term.
  Although the economic landscape looks more promising than ever, there 
is more work to do. Those of us from Iowa are particularly focused on 
trade agreements and renewable energy policies that impact our home 
  So I hope overall that our colleagues across the aisle will finally 
put an end to their tired attacks on the tax bill and begin working 
with us to promote further economic growth that has already started at 
a high level as a result of this tax bill.

[[Page S4264]]

  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I want to join my friend, the Senator from 
Iowa, Senator Grassley, and talk about what has happened with the tax 
bill--the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as the President insisted it be called 
because that is exactly what it was to do.
  It has been 6 months since it was signed into law, and it is clear 
that the country is thinking differently about the future. It is clear 
that there is more confidence in our economy than there has been in 
past years. It is also clear, frankly, that a lot of that confidence 
began after the last election and was reinforced by commonsense 
regulation instead of out-of-control regulation.
  The tax bill, on top of that, as it turns out, is doing the things 
those of us who voted for it said it would do and does not do the 
things people who were against it said were going to happen. I remember 
that nobody was going to get a tax cut--only to find out that 9 out of 
10 people who paid income tax last year are paying less income tax this 
  This week, the Gallup poll organization found that the percentage of 
Americans who are satisfied with the direction of the economy is the 
highest it has been in almost 15 years.
  In May, small business optimism increased among small business owners 
to the second highest level in the National Federation of Independent 
Business survey's 45-year history. In fact, there were several records 
that were broken in May. Compensation increases hit a 45-year high. 
Positive sales trends reached the highest level since 1995--over 20 
years ago. Expansion plans were more robust than they had been at any 
time in the survey's history. That set a record as well.
  The combination of lower taxes and full expensing of new and used 
equipment has created an additional cash flow incentive that is making 
a difference.
  As of this month, 1 million new jobs have been created since the 
passage of the tax cut bill. In the last year, Missouri--my State--
added nearly 35,000 jobs, and more than 4,000 Missourians who were 
unemployed just found jobs. Nationwide there are more job openings than 
people looking for work. In the 20 years that those two things have 
been measured at the same time--how many people are looking for work 
and how many job openings there are--it is the first time in 20 years 
that there were more jobs available than people looking for work.
  I said a number of times on the floor as we debated the tax bill that 
there are two ways to increase people's take-home pay. One is to take 
less money out of the check they already get. Nine out of ten Americans 
who paid income taxes last year found that has happened for them. No. 2 
is to be sure we have better jobs to start with, have an economy where 
people are competing to get workers and competing to keep workers.
  As businesses try to attract new employees, they are setting new, 
higher minimum entry-level skills and minimum job compensation than 
they have had before. The National Federation of Independent Business 
found that 35 percent of all small business owners reported increases 
in their labor compensation. One out of three NFIB employers says they 
are paying more now than they were 1 year ago.
  In addition, the report found that nearly 60 percent of respondents 
are hiring or trying to hire. When 60 percent of the respondents to a 
survey are trying to hire, that is pretty good news. It is good news 
for the economy, but it is also good news for people out there trying 
to get hired. If you are in an economy where lots of people are looking 
for workers, you are in a lot better place than if you are in an 
economy where only a few people are looking for workers.
  We need to make sure we have a skills and training match that gets 
people into those better jobs that are out there. I was all over our 
State a couple of weeks ago, in 10 different cities over 3 days 
attending business roundtables and going to manufacturing locations. In 
my hometown of Springfield, one manufacturing location had 20 available 
jobs right then. Other people were telling me that they have hired 
people back whom they had fired in the past, and the approach was: If 
you want a second chance, I know you know how to do what we do here. If 
you are ready to give it another try, I am ready to give it another 
try. That doesn't happen very often in very many economies.
  According to the survey the Association of General Contractors 
released this year, more than three-fourths of the people who responded 
to that survey said they couldn't find or they were having a hard time 
finding the qualified workers they need.
  In a bill that we will mark up in the Appropriations Committee next 
week, the subcommittee that I chair--the Labor, Education, Health and 
Human Services Subcommittee--we are going to continue to build this 
apprenticeship program in a bipartisan way that Congress has embraced. 
The President likes this program. We have had a 53-percent increase in 
just the last couple of years in the training money available for 
  Two hundred years ago, apprenticeships were the way everybody learned 
to do whatever it was they were going to do. If you were going to learn 
a skill, you were going to learn it as an apprentice.
  This is a program that really gives the employers the tools they need 
to develop the workforce they would like to have. It gives workers an 
opportunity to earn a salary while they are learning skills. It does 
that in a way that makes it possible for employers to do a couple 
things at the same time: prepare their own workforce, get people ready 
for work, and put people in a situation where they are suddenly showing 
up for work every day, learning skills while they are there, learning a 
lot of things that will get them ready for full-time employment.
  For the 9 out of 10 Americans who complete apprenticeship training 
programs and get a job--and again, 9 out of 10 people who go through 
those programs get a job, and the average starting salary for those 
jobs is $60,000 a year. These are not minimum wage jobs; these are 
significant opportunities to start at that level and work your way up. 
I hear from businesses and I hear from unions in Missouri all the time 
about the need for skilled workers and about the long-term careers that 
can result from meeting that skilled-worker need.
  As we continue to focus on training our 21st-century workforce, we 
know there are a lot of challenges we have to address. Next week, our 
subcommittee will consider our bill. Dedicating resources for programs 
geared toward better preparing and training the next generation of 
workers is one of our top priorities.
  I am pleased that the Trump administration has also taken important 
steps to strengthen apprenticeship programs. Last year, the 
administration issued an Executive order that doubled the amount the 
Federal Government spent on apprenticeship programs. In addition, the 
order shifted the role of developing government-funded workforce 
development programs from the Labor Department to private sector 
entities, such as trade groups, unions, and businesses, which, frankly, 
are much more likely to produce the workforce they know they need than 
a government program that is much more likely to produce the workforce 
we might have needed a couple of years ago.
  This is a program that is working. With an economy growing as fast as 
ours, we need to promote job skills and training that fit the jobs of 
the future. We need to ensure that opportunities are available for 
workers in rural areas, suburban areas, and urban areas alike. It is 
critical that we ensure that Federal programs are designed to continue 
to take advantage of the apprenticeship model that is working.
  Just a couple of years ago, I don't think people would have predicted 
where we would be with our economy today. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act had 
a lot to do with that--resetting the foundation of our economy, making 
it possible for us to compete around the world, going from the highest 
corporate rate in the world to a rate right in the middle. We are fine 
in the middle. Nobody is fine, if they are trying to compete, when they 
give themselves the biggest disadvantage in that field of competition.
  It has only been 6 months, but it has been a pretty good 6 months, 
and I

[[Page S4265]]

think we will continue to see the good news we have been seeing as 
people develop more confidence in their ability to take care of their 
families and to take care of themselves, and more confidence in the 
economy is going to make that possible.
  With that, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, as some of my colleagues mentioned 
already, today marks 6 months since Congress passed the Tax Cuts and 
Jobs Act and sent it to the President's desk to become law. When the 
President signed the legislation, he helped usher in the first major 
overhaul of the Tax Code in three decades.
  Here are some of the results we have seen so far: Over 1 million new 
jobs have been created since the package of tax reform; at least 101 
utilities across the country are lowering rates for customers, 
including Entergy Arkansas in my home State, as a result of the savings 
they are seeing from the tax reform bill; and 75 percent of small and 
independent business owners believe that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will 
have a positive impact on their businesses, which is leading them to 
make plans to invest in hiring and increase employees' compensation.
  I could go on highlighting the good news related to our overhaul of 
the Tax Code, but instead I want to spend just a few minutes talking 
about what I have heard from small business owners and employees--
beneficiaries of this historic reform--on a recent visit I made to 
Arkansas in the south and southwest regions.
  Last month, I had the opportunity to travel around Arkansas' Fourth 
Congressional District with Congressman Bruce Westerman. We embarked on 
a tour called the ``Talk Small Y'all'' Small Business Tour to highlight 
the importance of small businesses to our State's economy and to local 
communities where they make such a significant impact. The tour was 
designed to be an opportunity for us to listen and learn, which is 
exactly what we did. We visited with business owners, managers, and 
employees of manufacturing companies, an oilfield and industrial 
products supplier, a food service distributor, dining establishments, 
and retail stores.
  Everywhere we went, we heard a sense of optimism and excitement in 
the voices of those we were fortunate to meet. In addition to 
eliminating burdensome regulations through the Congressional Review 
Act, the passage of meaningful, historic tax reform--which makes our 
Nation's businesses more competitive globally--is providing cause for 
business owners to feel more confident about the current economic 
climate. Tax reform is helping to provide them with the certainty they 
need to grow and to succeed.
  I came to the floor in February to talk about the developments we 
were seeing in Arkansas as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, just 
2 months after it was signed into law. Despite the dire warnings from 
our friends on the other side of the aisle who opposed our changes to 
the Tax Code, businesses across the country and in Arkansas were 
already beginning to reap the benefits and passing them along to their 
employees, their customers, and the communities they operate in.
  I am pleased to say that this trend is continuing. More companies 
based in Arkansas or with a significant presence in the State are 
handing out bonuses, improving benefits, or investing in their 
businesses and their communities. Tax reform is helping hard-working 
Arkansans keep more of their money in their own pockets. It is 
delivering results that are helping the middle class.
  On the 6-month anniversary of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs 
Act, I join my colleagues in celebrating this achievement and the 
results that have followed from our commitment to make comprehensive 
tax reform a reality.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Toomey). Without objection, it is so 

          Amendments Nos. 2926 and 2971 to Amendment No. 2910

  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
following amendments be called up en bloc: Young No. 2926 and Tester 
No. 2971. I further ask that the time until 4:30 p.m. be equally 
divided in the usual form and that at 4:30 p.m. the Senate vote in 
relation to the amendments in the order listed and, finally, that there 
be no second-degree amendments in order to the amendments prior to the 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The clerk will report the amendments en bloc.
  The bill clerk read as follows:

       The Senator from Arkansas [Mr. Boozman], for others, 
     proposes amendments numbered 2926 and 2971 en bloc to 
     amendment No. 2910.

  The amendments are as follows:

                           Amendment No. 2926

  (Purpose: To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a 
        study on the effectiveness of the Veterans Crisis Line)

       At the end of section 232 of title II of division C, add 
     the following:
       (c)(1) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall conduct a 
     study on the effectiveness of the hotline specified in 
     subsection (a) during the five-year period beginning on 
     January 1, 2016, based on an analysis of national suicide 
     data and data collected from such hotline.
       (2) At a minimum, the study required by paragraph (1) 
       (A) determine the number of veterans who contact the 
     hotline specified in subsection (a) and who receive follow up 
     services from the hotline or mental health services from the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs thereafter;
       (B) determine the number of veterans who contact the 
     hotline who are not referred to, or do not continue 
     receiving, mental health care who commit suicide; and
       (C) determine the number of veterans described in 
     subparagraph (A) who commit or attempt suicide.

                           Amendment No. 2971

 (Purpose: To prevent the denial of access to records and documents by 
                      various inspectors general)

       At the appropriate place in title II of division C, insert 
     the following:


       (a) Prohibition on Use of Funds.--None of the funds 
     appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be 
     used to deny an Inspector General funded under this Act 
     timely access to any records, documents, or other materials 
     available to the department or agency of the United States 
     Government over which such Inspector General has 
     responsibilities under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 
     U.S.C. App.), or to prevent or impede the access of such 
     Inspector General to such records, documents, or other 
     materials, under any provision of law, except a provision of 
     law that expressly refers to such Inspector General and 
     expressly limits the right of access of such Inspector 
       (b) Timely Access.--A department or agency covered by this 
     section shall provide its Inspector General access to all 
     records, documents, and other materials in a timely manner.
       (c) Compliance.--Each Inspector General covered by this 
     section shall ensure compliance with statutory limitations on 
     disclosure relevant to the information provided by the 
     department or agency over which that Inspector General has 
     responsibilities under the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 
     U.S.C. App.).
       (d) Report.--Each Inspector General covered by this section 
     shall report to the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate 
     and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of 
     Representatives within 5 calendar days of any failure by any 
     department or agency covered by this section to comply with 
     this section.

  Mr. BOOZMAN. Thank you, Mr. President.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                        Family Separation Policy

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, we have been focused on the U.S.-Mexico 
border, where the prospect of children being separated from their 
family has shocked and horrified many of us. We have been working to 
come up with a solution to this problem. That includes President Trump, 
who yesterday called

[[Page S4266]]

on Congress to preserve family unity, while calling for a zero 
tolerance policy when it comes to violating our immigration laws.
  I would like to provide a little bit of context for how we got here 
and offer a proposed solution. Just like under the Obama administration 
in 2014, when we saw tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming 
across the border into my State of Texas from Central America through 
Mexico--I remember at the time President Obama called that a 
humanitarian crisis, and, indeed, it was--trying to find a way to deal 
with this flood of humanity coming across our border in a safe and 
humane manner was a huge challenge for the Federal Government, for 
local communities, like McAllen, TX, and for various faith-based and 
other organizations. But come they did.
  Between August 1 of last year and May 31 of this year, the number of 
families apprehended at the southwest border rose 58 percent, compared 
with the same period a year earlier. Of course, just like the 
humanitarian crisis of 2014, most of these individuals came from 
Central America. I think it is important to point out that even though 
these are not unaccompanied minors in the same number that we saw in 
2014, we are still seeing so far this year roughly 30,000 children 
coming across our southwestern border from across dangerous territory 
in Mexico and from Central America, transported by human traffickers 
and the cartels, for whom this is their business model. Let me explain 
for a minute.
  Recently, an expert on this topic made the point that these criminal 
organizations that run children, families, and other adults across the 
border are ``commodity agnostic.'' That is what he said. In other 
words, they don't care whether it is drugs, contraband, children, or 
adults. Whatever it is, they are in it for the money, and they have 
found an incredibly profitable business model in transporting all of 
those commodities, if you can call them that, from Central America and 
across the Mexican border.
  For those who are worried about the opioid crisis here in America, 
which we all are, it is not just about prescription drugs--that is a 
huge part of the problem--but it is also the heroin that is frequently 
substituted for the prescription drugs because it is cheap and it is 
more plentiful. So all of these are good reasons, in my mind, for us to 
be very focused on what happens at our border.
  My State happens to have 1,200 miles of common border with Mexico, 
and we are at ground zero when it comes to the border security 
challenges and when it comes to the humanitarian crises and to the law 
enforcement challenges that go along with it.
  This Friday, Senator Cruz, my colleague from Texas, and I will be 
traveling to Brownsville and McAllen, TX, to once again get an idea of 
what the facts are on the ground. We have been there many times before, 
of course, and have worked hand in glove with our local and State 
officials, with our faith-based organizations and with everybody who is 
concerned about what is happening at the border, including the Border 
Patrol, the Texas National Guard, and the like.
  I want to make one point when it comes to those who enter our country 
in order to claim asylum, as many of these people do from Central 
America. They claim a fear of persecution as the basis for a claim for 
asylum, but those who present themselves lawfully at ports of entry--
those are the bridges that enter into the United States--can do so and 
claim asylum without violating any immigration laws. As Secretary 
Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, said, it is 
only those who try to enter the country in those vast areas between the 
ports of entry, which is exceedingly dangerous, by the way, who violate 
our immigration laws when they enter the United States illegally. When 
they come with a child, whether it is their biological child or 
somebody they claim is their child--maybe the cartels have figured out 
that if they pair these people up, they have found another way to 
exploit vulnerabilities in the system--it presents the challenges that 
we have seen here in the last few days.
  I want to emphasize that we have seen the arrival of families and 
children before. So none of this is new, but we do need to put what is 
happening now in proper context. As the Secretary of Homeland Security, 
Ms. Nielsen, has said, if the situation in your home country is 
dangerous and if you have chosen to seek asylum for your family in the 
United States, there is no reason for you to enter the United States 
illegally. We saw this during the previous policy that was since 
eliminated by the Obama administration of Cuban refugees who, because 
of a unique policy called ``wet foot, dry foot,'' once they crossed 
over our ports of entry, they were entitled to seek refuge in the 
United States under the laws at the time. So none of this is new.
  As I said, people with a credible fear of persecution in their home 
countries may present their claims through a normal, well-defined 
process. There is no reason for somebody to expose themselves, much 
less their children, to the dangerous, remote regions--areas I call the 
wild, wild west--down along the border in order to try to sneak through 
by illicit means.
  But people do sometimes falsely claim a credible fear of persecution. 
In other words, they don't qualify for asylum. So that is why it is so 
important for us to give them an opportunity and to insist that they 
present those claims to an immigration judge on a timely basis so those 
claims can be properly evaluated.
  The Trump administration has made the very commonsensical decision to 
have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to illegal immigration. They 
have made the decision to fully enforce our laws by prosecuting adults 
in criminal courts when they are apprehended crossing our borders 
illegally. In my opinion, that is exactly the right decision--enforce 
the laws as written. The relevant laws--the ones that criminalize 
illegal crossings--have been on the books for a long time. They are a 
product of congressional action and Presidential approval, like all 
legislation. These are not something that President Trump created out 
of whole cloth, as some people would have you believe. But the truth is 
that often these laws were not enforced by previous administrations 
and, particularly, when families were involved. Now that they are being 
enforced, the adults are, unfortunately, under the status quo, 
separated from families as part of the legal process as it plays itself 
out. It is not because of any desire to separate families and children, 
but rather because of previous Federal court decisions, consent 
decrees, and statutes that Congress has passed that require children to 
be placed in a separate, safe setting. In other words, we don't want to 
place children in a jail cell with hardened, potentially violent 
criminals because the adult that brought them into the country has 
violated our criminal laws. So putting the children in a safe, separate 
setting was really motivated by the best of intentions.
  The relevant authorities are important to acknowledge because, as the 
New York Times has stated this last weekend, contrary to what you may 
have heard, ``technically, there is no Trump administration policy 
stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their 
  What there are, instead, are many variables that are hard to 
disentangle from one another, and, I think, unfortunately, those who 
would like to create a false narrative here have taken advantage of the 
complexity of these laws and the situation in order to claim some sort 
of sinister intent to tear children away from their parents 
unnecessarily. That is not the goal. In fact our goal is just the 
opposite: How do we keep these children with their families, pending 
the decision by an immigration judge of whether or not they have a 
viable claim to asylum or some other benefit.
  The so-called Flores agreement is one of those laws that are required 
to be observed which requires that children can be held no longer than 
20 days. A Ninth Circuit opinion applies the Flores bill to family 
units, protracted timelines for asylum claims, limited detention 
facilities, and a division of responsibility among ICE, or Immigration 
and Custom Enforcement, Health and Human Services, and other agencies. 
All of this adds to the complexity of this situation.
  Most of these factors are pretty uncontroversial. I think every 
Member will agree with the Trump administration that we should never 
place children in prisons or jails with hardened,

[[Page S4267]]

potentially violent criminals when their parents are being lawfully 
prosecuted for entering the country illegally.
  We need to see that this is how we got to where we are now. They are 
entirely reasonable decisions that seemed to make sense at the time--
that children should not be held for any longer than is strictly 
necessary, that they should never be detained with adults in a jail 
cell in potentially dangerous circumstances. A lot of that seemed to 
make sense at the time. By the same token, I and many others certainly 
don't want family members to be separated from one another as a 
consequence of officials doing their duty and enforcing the laws they 
are sworn to uphold.

  I know Customs and Border Protection leaders like Manny Padilla, 
chief of the Rio Grande Valley sector, and David Higgerson, and all of 
the other men and women who work under them in the Rio Grande Valley, 
are trying to do their job. They are trying to enforce the law. That is 
what we have asked them to do. That is their duty. It is a good thing, 
and I think we should all appreciate their attempt to do so in a very 
complex environment.
  This is where I have some questions for the minority leader Senator 
Schumer and others. Senator Feinstein, my friend from California whom I 
have worked with on a number of pieces of legislation, secured the 
support of all Members of the Democratic side of the aisle on a piece 
of legislation which does nothing to ensure that the law will be 
enforced. Sure, it purports to deal with family separation but 
basically provides a get-out-of-jail-free card to any adult who 
illegally crosses the border. In fact, they go from a zero tolerance 
program by President Trump's administration to a zero enforcement 
program, thus creating an incentive for people to illegally immigrate 
across the border and making it almost impossible for law enforcement 
to enforce our immigration laws. That will continue to be a draw on 
people from different parts of the world who would love to move to the 
United States.
  We can be sympathetic. We can be concerned. We should do everything 
within our power to help them so they can live in their own country 
safely, but we know we simply can't have an open border policy so 
anybody and everybody who wants to move to the United States can do so. 
That is why we have exceptions like asylum claims that have to be 
decided by an immigration judge.
  Yesterday, Senator Schumer said President Trump alone could fix this 
situation by signing a Presidential order, but even though the 
President has stated his decision to do so, I think that is likely not 
going to be decided finally by the President but rather by the courts 
when that Executive order is challenged based on the other legal 
considerations I mentioned a moment ago: the Ninth Circuit decision, a 
consent decree in the Flores case, and other statutes.
  I don't think our friend, the Democratic leader, actually believes 
President Trump can do this by a flick of a pen, as he said; otherwise, 
he wouldn't have cosponsored the bill by the Senator from California to 
address this situation. Why in the world would he propose legislation 
if he actually sincerely believes the President alone can fix this 
  The truth is, we in Congress and the President have a shared 
responsibility and a role to play in addressing this crisis at the 
border, but the result of the proposal by the Senator from California, 
embraced and cosponsored by the Democratic leader, is that it makes it 
impossible to enforce the laws Congress has written when it comes to 
adults illegally entering the United States when they are accompanied 
by a child.
  We should not be under any illusion that the criminal organizations 
that facilitate the movement of people from other countries into the 
United States--they understand these gaps in our laws. That is why they 
sent tens of thousands of unaccompanied children into the United States 
in 2014, creating that humanitarian crisis. They know well that because 
of the gaps in our law that allow adults with children to be treated 
differently, they are exploiting that for financial gain.
  The result of the proposal by the minority leader and our Democratic 
colleagues means it is impossible to enforce laws that Congress has 
written. Ending zero tolerance means ignoring the law, and that amounts 
to ignoring the will of the people who put Members of Congress in 
office and ending our respect for the rule of law. Ending zero 
tolerance, as they would seek to do, means tolerating criminal 
activity. As I mentioned, these are organized criminal organizations--
they are sometimes called transnational criminal organizations--and 
they will trade in anything that makes them money: People, guns, drugs, 
any sort of contraband we can imagine. Not applying the law to illegal 
entry does nothing but fuel them and feed their money machine, which is 
why they continue to do what they do.
  The other concern I have with the legislation proposed by our 
Democratic colleagues, even though they have said only the President 
can fix it, is that while legislation from the Senator from California 
does seek to keep families together--a goal we share--it doesn't 
specify where those families should be held. That is a big problem 
because when it comes to the safety of these children, we don't want to 
leave that open to interpretation or misunderstanding. We want to be 
sure and clear that these families are kept in separate residential 
housing facilities, away from hardened and potentially violent 
criminals, but our Democratic colleagues' bill that every single one of 
the Democrats in the Senate has signed on to doesn't even address that. 
As I said, in fact, their bill would likely result in many adults 
entering the United States illegally getting off scot-free because of 
the no enforcement zone, basically extending within up to 120 miles 
from the border. Basically, Federal law enforcement authorities, not 
just the Border Patrol but the FBI, the U.S. attorneys, and others, 
would be essentially prohibited from prosecuting anybody for violation 
of our laws.

  Now, all of us sat up and paid close attention when former First Lady 
Laura Bush and the current First Lady Melania Trump expressed their 
concerns about family separation and called on us to find a better way 
to answer the current crisis, and I agree with them. In fact, we have 
gotten off to a pretty good start.
  Led by our colleague from North Carolina, some of our colleagues and 
I, just a few minutes ago, introduced a bill called the Keep Families 
Together and Enforce the Law Act. The goals of this legislation are 
pretty straightforward: keep families together in safe, secure 
facilities while their cases are waiting to be decided by a court.
  We set mandatory standards of care for family residential centers to 
make sure they are hygienic and safe and the sort of place where we can 
treat people compassionately.
  We also authorize 225 new immigration judges because of the huge 
backlog that makes it hard to handle all the cases that come across the 
border. We give these families a chance to move to the head of the line 
to get their cases decided on an expedited basis so that while they are 
being detained in these safe, secure, family facilities, their cases 
can be decided quickly. Also, if they are entitled to an immigration 
benefit like asylum, they could be afforded that on a reasonable 
timetable and not left in limbo for any longer than absolutely 
  Now, I believe, talking to my friend the senior Senator from 
California, Mrs. Feinstein, that these are elements of a bill we might 
be able to agree to, Democrats and Republicans, in order to address the 
common concerns we have about family separation. Throughout the course 
of our discussions, though, it has become clear this is something we 
all believe; that families crossing the border should be kept together. 
Where we may differ is whether that should also go along with a joint 
commitment to enforce our immigration laws, but, as I said earlier, 
this is not an either-or situation. We can keep parents and children 
together while, at the same time, remaining resolute in enforcing our 
immigration laws--something I believe we should do.
  The Trump administration has said it will not tolerate any violation 
of those laws and that all offenders will remain on the table for 
prosecution, but there is no reason for our Democratic colleagues to 
oppose what I have

[[Page S4268]]

laid out. Either we are or we are not a nation of laws, with a 
government that enforces those laws, or we are a nation with no law and 
open borders; simply waving through anybody who wants to come into the 
country at their discretion.
  So I would urge all of our colleagues to work together to continue 
talking about and supporting a bill that represents these shared 
values. If we come together, we can resolve the situation swiftly and 
ensure that these children are kept together with their families and, 
as I said, that they can be expeditiously presented before an 
immigration judge so they can present any legitimate claim they may 
have to any immigration benefit. I think that is a commonsense solution 
to this problem, and I look forward to our colleagues working together 
to try to solve it.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.

                              North Korea

  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, as we know, last week President Trump 
took what I believe is a historic first step in making America and the 
whole world more safe, more stable, and more secure. I believe his 
efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program have already 
produced tangible results. North Korea has suspended nuclear tests and 
is dismantling a test facility. They have also committed to recovering 
and sending home the remains of Americans killed during the Korean war.
  Now the Trump administration is taking the next steps. The State 
Department is hard at work on followup discussions. Secretary of State 
Pompeo says he may personally return to North Korea before very long.
  When we heard from President Trump about his trip to Singapore last 
week, he was upbeat about the talks. He understands these followup 
talks are going to be where the specifics really start to be discussed. 
That is where, as they say, the rubber meets the road. I think the 
talks have a very real opportunity for success. Success means an 
agreement that is durable, enforceable, and verifiable. It means an 
agreement that eliminates all nuclear weapons from North Korea and from 
the entire Korean Peninsula--nothing less. So I am cautiously 
optimistic about the talks.
  President Trump has applied a program of maximum pressure, and that 
has brought North Korea to the table. We had a hearing in the Foreign 
Relations Committee, and the upload from the whole discussion was this: 
Sanctions work.
  The next stage of these negotiations is going to help us understand 
whether now is the right time, whether the Kim regime is truly ready to 
give up its nuclear weapons. If it is not ready, the pressure can 
resume. The pressure can even be increased. The maximum-pressure 
approach will ultimately work--if not today, then someday.
  Meanwhile, the United States is in a very strong negotiating 
position. We know that as a result of the efforts by President Trump 
and the strong position we are in, it is something that not just we 
know but North Korea knows as well. We know exactly what we need to 
have happen in these talks and exactly what North Korea must do. We are 
willing to walk away if an agreement falls short. That is how you win a 
  When President Obama negotiated with Iran over their nuclear program, 
I think he lost sight of that important rule. He wanted a deal so badly 
that what he was willing to accept was a bad deal. President Trump is a 
negotiator, and I am confident that he is going to walk away if the 
only deal to be had is one that is bad for the United States.
  I am confident we can reach our goals of a nuclear-free North Korea--
today or at some point down the road. I remain very clear-eyed, as does 
the President, about the possibilities, as well as the pitfalls, and I 
think we should be clear-eyed and concerned.
  The world remains a very dangerous place. Our adversaries, including 
North Korea, are cunning, opportunistic, and aggressive. We need to be 
sure we don't lose sight of whom we are dealing with. The Kim regime, 
going back to his father and grandfather, has a history of appalling 
attacks on their own people. They have shown no interest in the human 
rights, political rights, or civil liberties of North Koreans. I think 
history will judge this family very harshly.
  All that said, making the world a safer place and doing what is best 
for America means we have to deal with other countries as they are. 
Sometimes it includes sitting down to negotiate with other countries 
and other leaders who have a terrible record on human rights. The 
United States must continue to do all we can to force hostile nations 
back from the brink of war. We must encourage countries to embrace 
democracy, to abide by the rule of law, and to support the freedoms and 
rights of all people. As President Kennedy once said, ``Is not peace, 
in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights?''
  The worst human rights violations imaginable would be a nuclear 
explosion killing millions of people, some of them instantly, many of 
them slowly and in agony. President Trump knows that is what these 
negotiations are about, that the stakes are high, and that Mike Pompeo 
is the right person for this difficult job. He understands the people 
he is negotiating with, and he understands the facts on the ground.
  During his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo 
said an interesting thing about America's place in the world. He said: 
``If we don't lead for democracy, for prosperity, and for human rights 
around the world, who will?'' I think it is clear that the Secretary of 
State approaches these talks with a clear understanding of what 
American leadership looks like. He also knows what American strength 
looks like.
  The President hit the ``pause'' button on military exercises 
scheduled for later this year. He can just as easily restart those 
exercises. We have 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. I have visited 
some of them who are from my home State of Wyoming. The U.S. Navy is 
still in the area; they remain ready at a moment's notice.
  So America is going to be in a position of strength at every step of 
these negotiations, whether it is economically, diplomatically, 
politically, or militarily.
  I was critical of President Obama's Iran deal because it was a bad 
deal, not because ending Iran's nuclear program was a bad idea. I was 
critical of the Iran deal because it gave up too much in return for too 
little. It made permanent concessions for temporary return. I was 
critical because it was done without the support of the American people 
through their representatives in the Senate. I am confident that 
President Trump will not make the same mistakes. President Trump has 
given Kim Jong Un a taste--just a taste--of what it means to be 
welcomed as one of the peaceful, civilized nations of the world. It is 
up to Kim whether he wants to remain in this world or whether he wants 
to return to being an isolated, backward, pariah state, as North Korea 
has been for so long. It is up to Kim whether he wants to embrace 
civilized norms of respecting human rights and the freedom of his 
people. That is his decision to make.
  As for the rest of us, we can remain hopeful while still being 
skeptical. We cannot insist that the talks in North Korea must lead to 
great breakthrough immediately. Nobody can make a promise like that, 
and no one can expect that as the only standard for success. What we 
can expect is that our President will always put the interests of the 
American people first, whether he is negotiating with our allies or 
with our adversaries. That is what the American people expect, and I 
think all of us can rest assured that President Trump will keep that 
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.

                       Family Imprisonment Policy

  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, as we await the details of the 
President's Executive order today, we know enough already to have 
serious and significant concerns about the continuing policy of this 
administration in dealing with asylum seekers coming across our 
  Make no mistake--ending family separation would be a welcomed and 
humane step, but the solution cannot be the immoral and unlawful 
detention and imprisonment of children. Family separation cannot be 
replaced with

[[Page S4269]]

family incarceration and imprisonment. Indefinitely imprisoning 
children and families is still inhumane and ineffective law 
  President Trump's current policy, as articulated in this Executive 
order, will put children behind bars indefinitely and indiscriminately, 
and that is intolerable in a free and democratic society. Children will 
experience much of the same lasting trauma that they do now in the 
current situation, and the world will continue to watch the spectacle 
of the American Government locking up innocent children and throwing 
away the key. Locking up innocent children indiscriminately and 
indefinitely is a betrayal of American values.
  Much like the policy of family separation, this new policy of 
indefinite and indiscriminate family imprisonment hearkens back to the 
worst days of our country's history.
  Japanese children thrown into World War II-era detention camps were 
imprisoned with their parents, but the days of history rightly judged 
that decision harshly, and history will also judge us harshly if we 
permit an inhumane and immoral policy to be carried out without our 
protests and opposition. Instead, we must now shame the administration 
into adopting a humane and moral policy.
  This policy threatens to be costly. It will be costly in dollars and 
cents. The estimate is, approximately, almost $800 per day for every 
incarcerated person or detained individual. Even more costly will be 
the undermining of our moral authority and our image around the world 
and our own sense of offending our basic morality, our image of 
ourselves, and our sense of our own morality must be offended by 
imprisoning, indefinitely and indiscriminately, families with their 
  There are alternatives. One is stronger oversight and supervision 
over families who can be released without danger of flight or physical 
violence. These programs have been tried, and they have been proven 
successful. Family case management efforts have produced appearance 
rates above 90 percent, and those alternatives must be explored instead 
of detaining and incarcerating, indefinitely and indiscriminately, 
children with their families.
  The world and all of us were repulsed by the images of children 
separated from their families. Those sights and sounds were searingly 
painful, but so must be children in cages and behind bars indefinitely, 
without the basic services and respect for humanity that our great 
Nation has epitomized.
  At the core of the current administration policy is so-called zero 
tolerance, which results in criminal prosecution of the asylum seekers. 
The President has recognized the public outrage and yielded to it, but 
the policy of zero tolerance will continue.
  The current approach of detaining and incarcerating these children 
indefinitely likely violates court orders issued in 1997 and 2016, but 
indefinite and indiscriminate imprisonment of children and families 
ought to violate, as well, our rules of morality and humanity.
  I urge the administration to explore alternatives, to work with 
Congress on real reform, to support the legislation that has been 
supported by every Democrat in this body that would, in effect, avoid 
imprisonment of immigrant families.
  Beyond that legislation, we should pass compassionate and 
comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship 
for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the 
shadows and improves the due process right so that adjudication is 
fairer and more effective.
  We must shame this administration to do what is right--to end zero 
tolerance and support changes to our immigration system that represent 
the best in America, not as the House bills to be voted on today or 
tomorrow reflect the worst.
  We are here on World Refugee Day, appropriately. We ought to 
acknowledge the remarkable journey of refugees and asylum seekers as 
they pursue freedom and opportunity over the immense obstacles they 
encounter. We should recognize their contributions to our country, the 
talents and energy they bring here. We should recognize the 
humanitarian importance of refugee resettlement programs nationwide.
  Though victims of global conflict come here from all parts of the 
world, almost all of these refugees are also resilient survivors who 
embrace their new lives and contribute to their communities, even after 
these harrowing journeys to the United States. Too often we fail to 
recognize their contributions to American communities, but today we 
celebrate all that they offer.
  Today, on World Refugee Day, we commemorate that Connecticut, since 
2005, has resettled 7,000 refugees--our small State, with 3\1/2\ 
million people from all over the world, particularly in major 
resettlement cities like Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven.
  Today, proudly, I wish to share some of the stories from refugees who 
have made Connecticut their home and highlight the important work my 
constituents are doing to support refugees. There are several refugee 
agencies throughout Connecticut that serve as a key touchstone for 
these refugees by providing essential case management and employment 
services. I am proud of these organizations and am grateful for the 
work they do.
  IRIS--Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services--is Connecticut's 
largest refugee resettlement and immigrant services organization 
headquartered in New Haven. Volunteers welcome and resettle refugee 
families in over 35 of Connecticut's towns. Likewise, the Connecticut 
Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, located in Bridgeport, assists 
refugees and immigrants in resolving legal, economic, linguistic, and 
social barriers as they integrate into their communities.
  Let me tell you about the journey of Issa, Aminah, and their three 
children. They resettled in Westville, CT, the night of the 2016 
Presidential election. This family fled Syria to Jordan after one of 
their members was abducted and beaten by the regime. When they arrived 
in the United States, Issa started working as a parking attendant at a 
hospital parking garage, and Aminah launched a thriving catering 
business. Their children are thrilled to attend school again after 
years of educational disruption caused by their displacement.
  Let me tell you about Rafid. He was an electrical engineer in Baghdad 
who worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during military 
operations in Iran. After he received death threats from insurgents, he 
fled with his family to Jordan and then resettled in Connecticut, where 
he works as a team leader at Schick Manufacturing in Milford. He also 
started his own subcontracting company, Golden Gate CT, to create jobs 
for other Connecticut residents. He is truly an entrepreneur in the 
best sense of that word.

  Francis and Evelyne fled persecution in Rwanda and the Democratic 
Republic of the Congo to resettle in Bridgeport, CT. When they shared 
their story with my office, they said: ``We understood that the 
American Dream was alive in each of us if we wished to move forward and 
work hard.'' Francis and Evelyne certainly embody that American dream.
  Connecticut constituents have embraced these refugee families. They 
have opened their hearts to these individuals and families who are 
seeking nothing less than the American dream and escape from the trauma 
of war, the violence of persecution, and the face of oppression. In the 
face of unimaginable upheaval and horror, they have come to this 
country and made that journey. I am grateful to them for their courage.
  I wish to recognize one of my constituents who has demonstrated equal 
courage and strength, a Trinity College professor, Janet Bauer. She has 
dedicated her entire career to welcoming and integrating families. She 
established the Hartford Global Migration Lab, which connects college 
students and refugees. Through this program, Janet's students tutor at 
Jubilee House and help children with their homework at the Hartford 
Public Library.
  Like her, Jean Silk, a coordinator with the Jewish Community Alliance 
for Refugee Settlement, has also worked with refugees and done 
immeasurable good. At a time of global conflict, when the horrors of 
war are all too real every day, the Trump administration has capped 
refugee resettlement at 45,000 this fiscal year--the lowest in American 
history. Even with

[[Page S4270]]

this cap, the estimate is that the United States will resettle only 
about 20,000 refugees this year.
  Each of these numbers represents an individual human life transformed 
by coming to this country, given new light and life. I hope the 
administration will commit to resettling at least 75,000 refugees in 
fiscal year 2019.
  Again, as I close, I want to emphasize the importance of this day, 
the historic significance of our turning a point and taking advantage 
of an opportunity to do right and to do better than we have. I urge 
that colleagues across the aisle join in supporting a policy that stops 
indefinite and indiscriminate imprisonment of children. It may be with 
their families, but it recalls the worst chapters in our history when 
families were detained indiscriminately and indefinitely.
  When the judgment of history is made, I hope we will be spared the 
kind of blame that rightly went to previous generations who made the 
wrong decision. Let us do what is best for America. Let us exemplify 
the best in America.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to talk about 
the 74th anniversary of the GI bill, which we will be celebrating later 
this week.
  Before the Senator from Connecticut leaves the floor, I want to thank 
him for his comments. I want to follow up briefly on what he has said. 
As the Presiding Officer knows, and our colleague from Connecticut 
knows, every Wednesday morning, there is a prayer breakfast. Democrats, 
Republicans, Independents, and a number of Senators from both sides 
have breakfast together. One of the Senators talks about their faith 
and how their faith affects the way they approach their work here, our 
work here.
  Today, I was invited to speak, and I mentioned that sometimes when 
people say ``What kind of Democrat are you?'' I say I am a Democrat who 
has read Matthew 25.
  People say: What is Matthew 25?
  Matthew 25 goes something like this. When I was hungry, did you feed 
me? When I was naked, did you clothe me? When I was thirsty, did you 
give me something to drink? When I was sick and imprisoned, did you 
visit me? When I was a stranger in your land, did you welcome me?
  Every day here, the Chaplain starts our session with a prayer, and we 
have Bible study groups. I want to take a minute, and I don't expect my 
friend from Connecticut to stay on the floor, but I want him to hear 
the beginning of this. I just want to cite a couple of Scriptures. 
There are one or two in the Old Testament and maybe one or two in the 
New Testament.

  In the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, chapter 19, we read 
these words: ``When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall 
not wrong him.''
  The next verse, 34, reads: ``You should treat the stranger who 
sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him [or 
her] as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.''
  In the New Testament are the words of Jesus. We read in Matthew 18, I 
think verses 2 through 6: ``He called a little child [meaning Jesus] 
and placed the child among them.''
  Jesus said to them: ``Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become 
like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. 
Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child [who was with 
him that day] is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. And whoever 
welcomes one such child in my Name welcomes me.''
  Matthew 18:6 reads: ``If anyone causes one of these little ones, 
those who believe in me, to stumble, it would be better for them to 
have a large millstone hung around their neck than be drowned in the 
depths of the sea.''
  That is pretty straight talk or, as we used to say in the Navy, the 
straight skinny. Those are good words from the Old Testament and the 
New Testament to keep in mind.
  Again, I thank my colleague from Connecticut for his words.

                    74th Anniversary of the GI Bill

  Mr. President, our colleague from Connecticut, by the way, is 
somebody who has spent time in uniform. His sons have spent time in 
uniform, and I think one or two are still serving.
  When I came back from Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam war, 
after having been a naval flight officer for a number of years, I was 
fortunate to have been eligible for the GI bill. The GI bill that I was 
eligible for was a bill that provided me $250 a month to help pay for 
my tuition and my expenses at the University of Delaware, where I was 
in the business school trying to earn an MBA, which I ultimately did.
  The benefit for GIs today is not $250 a month. As my colleagues know, 
whatever the tuition costs are, they are paid for by the GI bill. If 
you go to a private school or something like that outside of your 
State, the benefit could be higher. There is a cap on that, but I think 
it is over $20,000. The expenses for tuition, tutoring, books, and fees 
are paid for by the GI bill. In Delaware, there is a monthly housing 
allowance, and there is in every State. The monthly housing allowance 
in Delaware is $2,000 a month. That compares with those of us who, at 
the end of the Vietnam war, received $250 a month.
  I don't deny or feel bad about the current GIs--sailors, airmen, 
airwomen. I don't feel bad about their getting a lot more, because it 
is a good benefit, and it is one that is worth celebrating.
  My dad came back from World War II, and my uncle served either in 
World War II or Korea. I was born after the war was over. Somewhere 
along the line when I was a little kid, my dad talked about how he got 
his early training after the war, but I was not old enough to 
understand what he was talking about. Shortly after the war ended in 
1945, he went back to West Virginia.
  As best I could figure out, other people took advantage of the GI 
bill, which was new then. They went to colleges and universities. My 
recollection is that Frank Lautenberg, who was a Senator for a number 
of years, went to Harvard. People went to different kinds of colleges 
and universities and maybe to community colleges.
  Apparently, my dad got training not by going to a 2-year school or a 
4-year school but by gaining a skill. The skill that he apparently 
gained was to be able to fix wrecked cars and to do bodywork on those 
cars. He worked at a place called Burleson Oldsmobile in Beckley, WV. 
He must have been pretty good at what he did. One day, an insurance 
adjuster came in from Nationwide Insurance to look at a car that was 
insured by Nationwide. He talked to my dad for a while.
  The insurance agent from Nationwide Insurance said: You sound like a 
pretty sharp guy. I am surprised that somebody who seems to have as 
much on the ball as you do is here, fixing wrecked cars. You could 
do what I do.

  My dad asked: Do you mean be a claims adjuster for Nationwide 
  The fellow said: Yes.
  Sure enough, a year later, my dad, apparently, became a claims 
adjuster for Nationwide Insurance. He had a high school degree from 
Shady Spring High School, which is just outside of Beckley. My mom did 
as well. Neither of them ever went to college. My dad worked for 
Nationwide for probably 25 years or more--maybe 30 years--in different 
places around the country. One of his last assignments for Nationwide 
Insurance, in its home office of Columbus, OH, was to run the training 
school for Nationwide's insurance adjusters from all over the country.
  Here was a guy with a high school degree, who had served in World War 
II with honor, who had a chance to get a GI bill benefit and turn it 
into a lifetime opportunity for himself and his family. It enabled my 
sister and me to go on and finish school. Thanks to the Navy, I got my 
Navy scholarship and used some money when overseas to help my sister go 
to school.
  The GI bill means a lot to my family, and it does to a lot of 
families. I think this is a benefit which has been around now for I 
believe 74 years this Friday. Think about that--three-quarters of a 
century this Friday. This Friday marks the 74th anniversary of 
President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of the Servicemen's Readjustment 
Act of 1944 into law. This legislation is more commonly known as the GI 
bill, and we have always called it the GI bill.
  Thanks to the GI bill, millions of returning World War II veterans 
flooded our Nation's colleges and universities,

[[Page S4271]]

and it ushered in an era of unprecedented economic expansion. Since 
1944, the GI bill has transformed our country and the lives of millions 
of veterans, including mine. It really helped to create a middle class 
in this country, as millions of GIs came back and had a chance to learn 
a skill and go to college in many cases and have economic opportunities 
for themselves and their families that never before had been possible.
  This week, we are recognizing--I think for the first time--the 
historical significance of the GI bill. We are going to designate the 
week from June 18 through June 22 as ``National GI Bill Commemoration 
  I want to thank several Senators.
  I thank Senator Sullivan from Alaska--a colonel in the Marine Corps.
  As the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs 
Committee, I thank Johnny Isakson and Senator Jon Tester for joining me 
in submitting the resolution in the Senate to designate June 18 through 
22 as ``National GI Bill Commemoration Week.''
  I thank House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Roe and Ranking 
Member Walz for submitting the same solution in the House of 
  I also thank the American Legion for its hard work in making this 
resolution a reality and for advocating for veterans and veterans' 
education benefits in Congress, as have other service organizations, 
but I think the American Legion was present at the creation and worked 
very hard right at the creation to make sure that we had a GI bill and 
that it would survive.
  Because this is GI Bill Week, I want to mention just a few reasons 
some folks refer to the GI bill as the greatest legislation. We have a 
greatest generation--my parents' generation. They are the folks who 
grew up in the Great Depression and went on to do amazing things with 
their lives.
  Some have referred to the GI bill as the greatest legislation, and I 
have already shared my own story today. The GI bill made immediate 
financial support, education, and home loan programs available. I 
bought my first home with the GI bill, with VA mortgage-backed 
insurance. That is how I insured my mortgage. I was able to get the low 
rate offered in the GI bill. Millions of veterans bought homes with the 
help of the GI bill. This combination of opportunities changed the 
social and economic fabric of our country.
  A 1988 report from the Joint Economic Committee estimated that for 
every $1 the United States invested in the GI bill, about $7 was 
returned in economic growth. Think about that. For every $1 we 
invested, there was a $7 return in economic growth thanks to the GI 
  Close to half a million engineers, close to a quarter of a million 
accountants, close to a quarter of a million teachers, almost 100,000 
scientists, about 67,000 doctors, over 120,000 dentists, and thousands 
of other professionals entered the workforce of the United States. I 
might add that they are still entering the workforce of the United 
  The GI bill truly democratized our higher education system, 
established greater citizenship and civic participation, and empowered 
the ``greatest generation'' to lead our country following World War II.
  Over the past 74 years, Congress has enacted subsequent GI bills to 
provide educational assistance to new generations of veterans, 
including the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966, the Post-
Vietnam Era Veterans' Educational Assistance Act of 1977, the Veterans' 
Educational Assistance Act of 1984, and most recently the Post-9/11 
Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, which we voted on and 
debated here, I think in about my eighth year here in the Senate.

  After returning from three tours of duty over in Southeast Asia, as I 
said earlier, I was fortunate enough to be able to use my Vietnam-era 
GI bill benefits at the University of Delaware.
  I close by saying that Senator Young is on the floor. I think he is 
going to offer an amendment in just a moment. He is a marine, and I am 
proud to serve with him. The Marine Corps and the Navy have different 
uniforms but are on the same team. I salute him for his service.
  If you go back to 2008, that was when we were falling into the worst 
recession since the Great Depression, some of us will recall. These 
pages up here were about half their current age. They are now about 15 
or 16 years old. They were about 8 years old when we were falling into 
the worst economic hole we had been in since the Great Depression. The 
unemployment rate for our country, as I recall, reached or exceeded 10 
percent. The unemployment rate--I was told by my staff--was higher for 
veterans. It was higher than 10 percent. I have been told it was 
significantly higher. That was where we were in 2009--at the bottom of 
the great recession.
  Since that time, a lot of veterans have come home. They have been 
able to take advantage of the current GI bill, the new GI bill--a very 
generous GI bill. Do you know what has happened? They have found jobs. 
They have found economic opportunity. They are doing all kinds of 
things with the education they have gained at sometimes 4-year colleges 
with advanced degrees, at 2-year colleges, at trade schools.
  The unemployment rate for our country has now dropped to under 4 
percent. We are in the ninth year of an economic expansion--the longest 
running economic expansion in our country's history. While the national 
unemployment rate is about 3.9 percent, the veterans' unemployment rate 
is no longer above the national average. It is below. The national 
average is down to about 3.9, and the veterans' unemployment rate is 
about 3.4. Again, I think we can say that the GI bill has helped to 
educate a whole new generation of young men and women. The GI bill is 
in no small part responsible for that.
  I commend my colleague Jim Webb, a former Senator from Virginia, who 
was the author of the legislation in 2008 that a lot of us supported 
and voted for.
  We are also grateful to those veterans and to the people of this 
country for having confidence in us in making sure that we could make 
an investment on their behalf and our behalf.
  Later this week, on Friday--people ask, what day is Friday? It will 
be the 74th anniversary of the GI bill. It is one of the greatest 
pieces of legislation we have ever passed and enacted in this country. 
It is the gift that keeps on giving, and it hopefully will continue to 
do so for a long time.
  Mr. President, there are two Senators on the floor who lead the 
Veterans' Affairs Committee. I ask unanimous consent for Senator Young, 
who is the author of an amendment that has been offered, to speak for 5 
minutes and for Senator Tester to speak for 3 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. CARPER. I thank the Presiding Officer.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana.
  Mr. YOUNG. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from 
Delaware for his naval service and for his concern for veterans. It is 
a pleasure to serve with him.

                           Amendment No. 2926

  Mr. President, as marines, we tend to make interservice jokes when we 
are in the company of one another, but I know we share a common 
dedication in making sure our veterans receive the sort of care and 
support that, of course, they deserve. That is why I rise in support of 
amendment No. 2926 to the MILCON-VA bill.
  Suicide is one of the most serious problems that face our veterans 
today. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, ``after 
adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 22 
percent higher among Veterans when compared to U.S. non-Veteran 
adults.'' That figure is 19 percent higher among male veterans when 
compared to U.S. non-veteran adult men and 2\1/2\ times higher among 
female veterans.
  Our veterans deserve the highest possible quality of care. Mental 
health care services are a critical component of that effort and are 
essential to preventing veteran suicides. Congress and the Department 
of Veterans Affairs has a solemn duty to ensure that programs designed 
to protect veterans' emotional and mental health are effective.
  The Department of Veterans Affairs launched what is now known as the

[[Page S4272]]

Veterans Crisis Line in 2011. While we applaud the VA for administering 
this program, we embrace the fundamental responsibility of Congress to 
exercise robust oversight of the Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that 
this program is actually effective and properly supporting at-risk 
veterans. That is why I joined with Senator Donnelly and Congressman 
Banks to introduce a bill to study the effectiveness of the Veterans 
Crisis Line and the followup treatment these veterans receive.
  Amendment No. 2926 is based on the core elements of the original S. 
2174 Veterans Crisis Line Study Act. Studying the Veterans Crisis Line 
is vital to ensure that it is successful in its mission to save as many 
veterans as we can, and I ask my colleagues for their support.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.
  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I would like to thank the Senator from 
Indiana for this amendment. It is a good amendment and is an amendment 
we need to pass in this body. As Senator Young pointed out, issues 
around mental health are very prevalent. It is the signature injury 
coming out of the Middle East. When these folks come back home, our men 
and women who have served need to have access, especially when they are 
in crisis. I thank Senator Young.

                           Amendment No. 2971

  Mr. President, I have a different amendment. This amendment does one 
simple thing. It stresses the importance of the independence of the 
Office of the Inspector General at the VA. To be honest, I am not sure 
we should ever have had to have this amendment, but we do because it is 
clear the VA is denying access to the Office of Inspector General to 
get the information it needs to carry out its mission of oversight. 
Over the past week, there have been a flurry of letters back and forth 
from the VA to the IG about access to information about the nature of 
the relationship between the two.
  This is what I have to say. The rhetoric coming out of the VA is a 
bit troubling. Sunlight, bringing information to light, is the best 
antiseptic for good government. When the IG is doing its job correctly, 
that is exactly what happens. So with the rhetoric that is coming out 
of the VA, it opens the door to the VA to be able to control or 
interfere for political reasons what should be the OIG's independent 
oversight efforts. I am here to state that the VA is not above the law 
or exempt from independent oversight. Despite the Acting Secretary 
directing the inspector general to act like he is his subordinate, he 
is not. This amendment No. 2971 simply prohibits funds appropriated in 
this bill to be used in a way that limits the access of the Office of 
Inspector General to the information or documents it deems necessary to 
investigate and do the oversight of the VA's work.
  As we have seen, the Department cannot be trusted to police itself. 
It must be held accountable to the veterans and taxpayers, and the 
Office of Inspector General is an important watchdog that should not be 
  I would like to add to the Record the cosponsors of this bill: 
Senators Isakson, Murray, Blumenthal, Hirono, Manchin, Duckworth, 
Baldwin, King, Gillibrand, Warren, Brown, McCaskill, Jones, Durbin, and 
  This is a good amendment. It is a good governance amendment. It is an 
amendment to allow us, the folks in the Senate, to offer the kind of 
oversight we need to offer to the VA to make sure it is serving the 
veterans of this country.
  With that, I yield the floor.

                       Vote on Amendment No. 2926

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the question is on 
agreeing to the Young amendment No. 2926.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator Tennessee (Mr. Corker) and the Senator from Arizona (Mr. 
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Ms. Duckworth) 
and the Senator from New Hampshire (Mrs. Shaheen) are necessarily 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lee). Are there any other Senators in the 
Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 96, nays 0, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 135 Leg.]


     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--4

  The amendment (No. 2926) was agreed to.

                       Vote on Amendment No. 2971

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question now occurs on agreeing to Tester 
amendment No. 2971.
  Mr. BARRASSO. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator are necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Tennessee (Mr. Corker). and the Senator from Arizona (Mr. McCain).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Ms. 
Duckworth), and the Senator from New Hampshire (Mrs. Shaheen) are 
necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 96, nays 0, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 136 Leg.]


     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--4

  The amendment (No. 2971) was agreed to.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, first of all, I want to associate myself 
with the remarks of the Senator from Montana, Mr. Tester, on his 
amendment in support of the VA's inspector general position. I believe 
it is critical to ensuring oversight and accountability at the 
Department of Veterans Affairs.
  What this amendment does and the reason I support it is that it 
ensures that the inspector general's office can fully vet, investigate, 
and examine the cases presented to them by making certain they have 
access to the necessary

[[Page S4273]]

records and documentation within the Department of Veterans Affairs. To 
arrive at the truth, the inspector general must have all of the 
information associated with any given situation to determine what is 
accurate and who should be held accountable.
  Mr. President, I also want to express my pleasure in speaking today 
in regard to something I have long advocated for, and I compliment the 
three chairmen and women here in support of the appropriations bills of 
which they have jurisdiction, but we need regular order, and this 
return to regular order for consideration of the fiscal year 2019 
appropriations process is important to the U.S. Senate. More 
importantly, it is valuable to the American people and valuable to my 
constituents home in Kansas.
  As a U.S. Senator and a member of the Appropriations Committee, our 
duty is to fund the Federal Government in a responsible way that will 
wisely utilize every taxpayer dollar, which requires a deliberation to 
prioritize Federal spending. I also think, when we can return to 
regular order, we have greater ability to influence decisions made by 
Cabinet Secretaries, department heads, bureau chiefs, and agency heads 
because we can influence decisions they make because of the power of 
the purse string.
  On the appropriations bills we are debating this week, I want to call 
attention to the MILCON-VA appropriations bill and the great work 
Senator Boozman and his ranking member, Senator Schatz, have achieved 
as chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee. I am very familiar 
with their staff, and I compliment them on their work.
  This bill provides an additional $1 billion in fiscal year 2019 for 
the VA to provide veterans access to care in the community, and to 
avoid any lapse in that care, this bill provides $11 billion in advance 
appropriations for fiscal year 2020.
  The point I am making is, we have worked hard to provide services in 
the community for veterans who either can't get the service or live 
such a distance from the VA or, now, because of the new law, when it is 
in their best interests to have care provided in the community. It is 
necessary we provide the funding to accomplish that.
  We have the opportunity to provide veterans and the VA with 
appropriations for fiscal year 2019 that builds on the momentum the 
reform legislation, which just became law, the VA MISSION Act, 
provides. I want to make sure we do the right things because we want 
the VA MISSION Act to work.
  On June 6, we paid tribute to one of our Nation's heroes who bravely 
stormed the beaches of Normandy in November of 1944. In addition, 2 
weeks ago today, on June 6, Senator Boozman and I, as well as many of 
our colleagues, were at the White House, where we joined the President 
as he signed the VA MISSION Act into law.
  The VA MISSION Act represents a significant achievement in providing 
our Nation's veterans with access to the care they are entitled to and 
that they deserve.
  Just as I urged my colleagues to support the VA MISSION Act, I call 
on my colleagues to support the appropriations for implementation of 
the reforms contained in this legislation. It is critical we do so to 
make certain veterans can rely on a community care program that meets 
their needs and offers access to the care they deserve.
  The MISSION Act delivers several critical reforms that the funding 
provided in this bill will enable the VA to carry out and build on. 
Particularly helpful for the appropriations process, it requires the 
Department to submit routine strategic plans to Congress and develop a 
multiyear budget process to better forecast future needs and 
requirements. It also mandates market area assessments to better 
understand what communities and local VAs are able to offer their 
veterans, allowing the VA and Congress to better identify gaps that 
require more resources to be filled and prevent redundancy; in other 
words, to provide the resources where they are needed and to make sure 
we don't spend them where they are not.
  As my colleagues are aware, the VA has faced several budget 
shortfalls in recent years. We have been on the floor often, and I have 
spoken about this numerous times. Unfortunately, it has required our 
attention numerous times. The VA has been unable to estimate how much 
money they will need to provide care in the community through the 
Choice Act, and this legislation requires a process by which they can 
accurately forecast those needs, particularly when it comes to care in 
the community.
  I have long believed that when it comes to the VA, it isn't a lack of 
funds that is the problem. In fact, we have consistently--and this bill 
does it again--increased their budget. Instead, it is a problem of how 
they spend the funds that are appropriated to them, how they manage 
those funds, and how the Department of Veterans Affairs is led.
  I am confident reforms like those included in the MISSION Act will 
enable the VA to be a better steward of taxpayer funds, while also 
enabling them to better carry out their mission of providing veterans 
with the care and benefits they are entitled to through consistent, 
stable budgeting.
  As reforms in the VA MISSION Act and the new community care programs 
are implemented over the next year, it is important that third-party 
administrators--administration entities which managed the community 
care program, Choice, in its old days for the VA--manage a network of 
community providers that serve veterans. Continuity of care is 
paramount to the success of VA's community care program, and we must 
ensure that the VA maintains veterans' access to the care they need by 
utilizing third-party administrators during the implementation stage of 
these reforms.
  I remind my colleagues that the VA is not ready to manage or operate 
a health network themselves. Our urgency to fund the Choice Program 
during repeated shortfalls in the past was, in part, out of the 
necessity of making certain that network continued to support veterans 
and those third-party administrators--the services they provide. I do 
not believe the VA is now capable of building or replicating those 
networks that currently exist, and I would indicate that, at least in 
part, the contract with the third-party administrator is terminated on 
June 30, and we need assurance the Department of Veterans Affairs has a 
plan to make certain those contracts are extended so that care does not 
  This next year must be focused on the implementation of the MISSION 
Act and readying the VA healthcare system for its transformation. Any 
distraction from completing this mission is unfair to veterans who will 
benefit from it and puts the community care program at risk.
  Our work on the MISSION Act and a community care program is in 
jeopardy if the Department of Veterans Affairs declines or is unable to 
renew contracts to keep the network in place.
  We are on the cusp of real reform and transformation at the VA which 
will benefit veterans and their families for decades to come. I can 
think of no greater obligation during this year's appropriations 
process than ensuring veterans, and the programs that serve them, are 
resourced to deliver the care and benefits they deserve.
  I thank the chairman, Senator Boozman, the ranking member, Senator 
Schatz, and their staff for their expertise and their work in making 
sure the appropriations process lends its support to the MISSION Act--
the John McCain MISSION Act--we enacted in the Senate and was signed by 
the President now just a few short days ago.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.

                        Forced Family Separation

  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, the images that we have seen from our own 
country over the past few days are shocking and heartbreaking. They 
don't reflect our values as a nation. I am glad the President is 
reversing course. I am glad that he is signing something, putting a 
stop to his administration's cruel, pointless, and heartless policy of 
separating children from their parents at the border. That is just the 
beginning of the work that needs to be done to undo the damage that the 
President's policy has inflicted on these children and to begin to 
create a more human and humane immigration solution.
  Any parent can tell you that being separated from a child is one of 
the worst things you can imagine. We have seen pictures and heard the 
sounds of crying children--children who are still in diapers. When I 
first heard that

[[Page S4274]]

audio clip--I think all of us remember the first time we heard it--of 
children who were screaming and crying for their parents, I almost 
couldn't listen to it.
  As an American, as a human being, as a father, as a grandfather, it 
was revolting. It should be hard to listen to. We should recoil at 
those terrible sounds. The second it is not heard, the second we shrug 
our shoulders and do nothing at the sounds of little children who are 
wailing, that is the second we lose our humanity. It is hard for us to 
listen to. If it is hard for us to listen to--if it makes us 
uncomfortable--that is nothing compared to what it must mean, to what 
it must feel like, and what those parents are going through.
  Yesterday, the administration reported that some 2,300 children were 
taken from their parents at the border in just a single month. 
Everybody in this body has gone to a school, and probably everybody in 
this body has gone to a grade school to visit. Remember what it is like 
to walk down the hall or to walk into a gym or to walk into a classroom 
and see dozens or even hundreds of children. Think about that. Think of 
walking into a school and seeing happy children--lots of them, dozens 
of children--who are singing or talking or playing on a playground.
  Now think of these 2,300 children who were taken from their parents 
at the border in a single month--from May 5 to June 9. For 5 weeks, 
there were 60 kids taken, every single day, on average. There were 60 
kids yesterday, 60 kids the day before, and 60 kids the day before 
that. We don't know how many since June 9, but from May 5 to June 9, 
there had been 60 kids every single day.
  Clearly, the President did the right thing. Clearly, the President 
did it under great political pressure. Clearly, the President never 
admitted he was wrong about it. That is not something he would do, 
unlike most human beings I know. Yet signing something today doesn't 
magically reunite those families overnight. It is not like these 
children now--as any of my colleagues who have watched children who are 
at a grade school, who will run out to the cars when their moms pick 
them up or run out to the playground, joyfully, when their dads visit. 
They will not magically reunite with their families overnight. Signing 
this order the President signed--oh, so clearly reluctantly--will not 
undo the trauma those children have endured.
  We still don't have good answers as to what has happened to those 
kids or what kinds of conditions they are living under. We have heard 
reports of siblings who have been ripped from their parents that they 
can't hug each other. We have heard of staff being told they are not 
allowed to comfort these children by touching them and hugging them. 
Imagine that. A child is taken away from her mother, and you are not 
even allowed to comfort her. You are just supposed to let her scream. 
That is inhumane, un-American, and is counter to everything most of 
us--at least in this body, if not the White House--have been taught.
  Dr. Colleen Kraft, the current President of the American Academy of 
Pediatrics and the past medical director of the Health Network by 
Cincinnati Children's in my State, warned that the toxic stress 
resulting from these separations can slow down brain development. She 
called it ``a form of child abuse.''
  Today, I demanded answers from the Secretary of Health and Human 
Services and from the Secretary of Homeland Security about what they 
are doing to care for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of 
the thousands of traumatized children in their custody.
  This chapter isn't closed. You don't just say, ``Thank you, Mr. 
President, for finally doing the right thing. Everything is fine.'' We 
have to track those 2,300 children for that month's period. There have 
been almost 2 weeks since then and more children. We have to find these 
children, comfort them, and examine them. Pediatricians have warned 
that this is some kind of child abuse because it can slow down brain 
development, and these children have already seen horrors that the rest 
of us can't imagine.
  Some of these parents are seeking asylum in America. They are fleeing 
violence, and they are just looking for a safe place for their 
children. Who knows how many of these children already were traumatized 
because they had lived in a war zone, because they had lived in an area 
with all kinds of violence from drug wars. They were pulled out of that 
and were traveling with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs 
and very little, with one or both parents, and went north, not knowing 
what was going to happen each day and seeing things that almost none of 
us growing up has seen. Then they were separated from their parents at 
the border.
  The way we keep our country safe is by going after terrorists and 
violent criminals, not by turning our backs on families and children 
just like ours, whose only goal is to escape violence and persecution.

  We have a lot of work to do to fix our immigration system, but 
tearing families apart will not solve anything. We need to come 
together, and we need to work on a bipartisan solution that recognizes 
we aren't going to deport 13 million people who are already here. We 
can secure our borders. We can create a pathway for people to earn 
citizenship if they follow the law, to have a job, and pay taxes.
  My son-in-law, Alejandro, lives in Cranston, RI--the boyhood home of 
our colleague Senator Jack Reed. He was 10 years old--maybe 11 years 
old--when he came to this country. His mother was a journalist. She had 
her life threatened as a journalist in El Salvador. She fled their 
country to come to our country. The parents then went to New York. We 
embrace people like that--who are refugees, whose lives we can save, 
and who can contribute so much to our country, as Alejandro has and his 
mother has. His whole family has contributed to this country. He is the 
father of two of our grandchildren now.
  This may be a complicated issue, but we are a country of values that 
protects people. We are a haven for so many people. We have made a 
difference in so many lives because of who we are and what our values 
are. Surely, it is a complicated issue, but the administration has only 
made it so much worse. It has added the challenge of having to undo the 
damage it has done in having to work to get those children back to 
their parents and help to make them whole.
  I hope we are seeing the end of this heartlessness. I hope this isn't 
a one-step pullback by the President, and then there will be more 
attacks on immigrants and more attacks on children. We have a lot of 
work to do to pick up the pieces and reunite families. The 
administration needs to provide answers immediately as to how it is 
going to make that happen and end the cries of these children with 
comforting words and much more.
  I close with this story.
  I had a message on Facebook from an Ohioan. He had heard the tragic 
story of a 10-year-old with Down syndrome who was reportedly separated 
from her parents at the border. That is barbaric, but this Ohioan gives 
me hope. He wrote that he and his wife have a daughter with Down 
syndrome. They wanted to offer to take in the little girl and her 
mother and have them stay with their family in Ohio. Imagine that.
  Those are the values of Ohioans. Those are the values of North 
Carolinians. Those are the values of Americans. They are not the 
President's values, who, because of whatever motive, has separated 
these families. That encompasses the State and the country I love--this 
family who wrote to us. I know there are so many more Americans out 
there who feel the same way--who practice compassion, whose hearts 
break for these children. It is time for their government to step up 
and reflect those values of this great country.
  Mr. President, yesterday, I met a veteran from Massillon, OH, James 
Powers. Mr. Powers brought to my attention a problem he was having with 
the VA's accounting mistakes, and our conversation led to a bill I 
introduced with Senator Tester, a Montana Democrat, and Senator 
Boozman, an Arkansas Republican, the bipartisan Veteran Debt Fairness 
Act. Both Senators serve with me on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. 
Both Senators know how VA overpayment and debt affect veterans every 
  James retired 2 years ago, but he noticed that the Army was 
continuing to pay him both an Active-Duty salary

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and retirement benefits. James caught the mistake. He did the honorable 
thing. He notified the VA it was overpaying him, but the VA continued 
to overpay him. Then it charged him twice to recoup the overpayments, 
and they garnished his benefits.
  The staff in my office worked with the VA to resolve James's issues, 
but this should never have happened in the first place. It is fixed 
now. He had to go through that. To his credit, to James's credit, he 
wanted to make sure his experience, which was uncomfortable--or worse 
at times--would change policy and affect future veterans so they 
wouldn't have to go through this, which is why I admire him so much.
  This story is too common. In 2016, the VA issued some 200,000 
overpayment notices to veterans. When this happens, the agency often 
tries to get its money back by withholding some or all of the monthly 
disability payments our veterans have earned. Our veterans deal with 
enough stress already. They shouldn't be forced to pay for the VA's 
accounting mistakes.
  Our bill would ban the VA from charging veterans for its own mistake 
in overpayments. It should protect veterans' payments who depend on 
their benefits by capping the amount the VA can deduct from a veteran's 
monthly payment at 25 percent. It would ban the VA from collecting 
debts that are more than 5 years old.
  Our veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country. I am the 
first Ohioan to ever serve a full term. I have been on this committee 
now for 12 years, the Veterans' Affairs Committee. I am on that 
committee because we should serve those who serve us. We should protect 
those who protect us. The veterans shouldn't be paying for the mistakes 
of the agency that is supposed to serve them.
  Unfortunately, our bill was not included in the National Defense 
Authorization Act last week. Instead, we have an amendment to the 
MILCON-VA bill to require the VA to track down these overpayments and 
report to Congress on the scope of VA debt. We will continue to push 
for the Tester-Boozman bill, but I hope all of my colleagues will join 
me in supporting this bipartisan, commonsense step toward fixing VA 
overpayment and debt for America's veterans.
  I yield the floor.
  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, I have submitted amendment No. 2955 to 
H.R. 5895 on behalf of Senator Jeanne Shaheen. I strongly support the 
provision's intent to ensure that veterans in New Hampshire receive the 
best possible care.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). The majority leader.

                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I send a cloture motion to the desk for 
amendment No. 2910.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the Senate 
     amendment No. 2910 to Calendar No. 449, H.R. 5895, an act 
     making appropriations for energy and water development and 
     related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 
     2019, and for other purposes.
         John Thune, Todd Young, Lamar Alexander, John Boozman, 
           Ben Sasse, Johnny Isakson, Thom Tillis, Cindy Hyde-
           Smith, David Perdue, John Cornyn, Patrick J. Toomey, 
           Pat Roberts, Jeff Flake, Mike Rounds, Mike Crapo, Tim 
           Scott, Mitch McConnell.

                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I send a cloture motion to the desk for 
the bill H.R. 5895.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on Calendar No. 
     449, H.R. 5895, an act making appropriations for energy and 
     water development and related agencies for the fiscal year 
     ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes.
         John Thune, Todd Young, Lamar Alexander, John Boozman, 
           Ben Sasse, Johnny Isakson, Thom Tillis, Cindy Hyde-
           Smith, David Perdue, John Cornyn, Patrick J. Toomey, 
           Pat Roberts, Jeff Flake, Mike Rounds, Mike Crapo, Tim 
           Scott, Mitch McConnell.

  Mr. McCONNELL. I ask unanimous consent that the mandatory quorum 
calls be waived.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, here is where we are. I filed cloture, 
but we anticipate that will not actually be necessary and we will be 
able to vitiate the cloture motions tomorrow because we anticipate 
being able to process additional amendments throughout the day and wrap 
the bill up sometime tomorrow afternoon. But there will be an 
opportunity during the day to continue to process amendments, and we 
should be able to finish the bill this week without resorting to